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Creative writing course at oxford university

Undergraduate Diploma in Creative Writing

Our two-year, part-time Diploma allows you to strengthen your ability in four major areas of literary activity — prose, poetry, drama and analytical reading — as well as the chance to specialise in the genre of your choice.

Study options:

There are two ways to study:

The face-to-face option takes place on weekends in Oxford, and offers a rich combination of seminars, one-to-one tutorials and group discussions. See study option 1, below.

The online option replicates this structure exactly, using a variety of media to offer a stimulating and challenging learning environment. See study option 2, below.

For both study options, the chance to have your work read and analysed by a supportive, suitably skilled peer group is one of the great benefits of the course, offering fresh perspectives and insights on your writing. At the same time, we emphasise the importance of individual voice and vision, and there will be ample time for one-to-one, in-depth discussion of your work.

Many of our former students have had work accepted for publication during or after their time with us. A significant number have progressed to Creative Writing MAs and MFA programmes at a range of universities, including Oxford University’s Master’s in Creative Writing.

Online open event

An online open event was held on Wednesday 23 March 2022, from 7-9pm (UK time). If you missed this event but have questions about the course, please get in touch by emailing: [email protected]

Coronavirus update

The safety of our students and staff is our top priority, and we are following Government guidance and University regulations, which are subject to change. Both study options of this course include some elements of face-to-face teaching – and although these are expected to take place in person in the coming year, we are prepared to move this teaching online (either fully or partly) should circumstances dictate. For example, should social distancing be necessary, we may opt to conduct teaching fully online, or to have some participants accessing teaching from home whilst others join us in the classroom. Offer-holders will be kept informed of all developments.

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Who is this course for?

We are looking for enthusiastic writers with a strong commitment to improving their craft, an awareness of literary areas and a degree of articulacy in discussing them, and the capacity for intellectual and imaginative development. This is an intensive and challenging course, and you will need to consider carefully whether you can offer the high level of commitment required. You will want to devote at least 12 hours a week to your writing outside of timetabled classes.

You don’t need formal qualifications. You must already be active as a writer, but it is not essential to have been published. Our students come from many backgrounds, and typically range in age from their 20s to their 70s. Some have previous experience of literary study, but again, this is not essential.

If you apply, we will ask you to submit a small portfolio of your work. Admission is selective and would be based on your portfolio and an interview.

How you will study

There are two study options for the Diploma in Creative Writing.

Option 1:

Most terms you will attend four Saturday day schools, four per term in terms 1-5, two in term 6, which usually run from 9.00 am – 5.00 pm at Ewert House in Summertown, Oxford.

In the day schools you will take part in:

  • seminars, involving practical writing activities and lively group discussions;
  • group discussions of each other’s work. This is because the value of group activity as a catalyst for the creative imagination is a central tenet of the course.

You will also attend one Sunday day school each term, which is paired with one of the Saturday schools. At the Sunday sessions, visiting writers, speakers and tutors provide a wide range of voices to counterpoint and amplify the insights and opinions of the Diploma’s regular teaching team. You can hear readings by well-known writers from all genres, and engage in discussions with them, as well as enjoying related workshop sessions.

There is a seven-day summer school (residence possible) at the end of the first year of study, in June, which provides an unparalleled opportunity to concentrate on living and working your craft. The summer school is a vibrant culmination to your first year, allowing dedicated time and space for your writing. Sessions for the whole group are balanced by individual sessions which allow you to focus on areas of your choice. There is time set aside for uninterrupted writing, and guidance will be given, as a group and individually, about how best to focus your efforts during the summer vacation so that you can get the most out of your second year.

The summer school is an integral part of the course and included in the course fee. It usually starts at lunchtime on a Saturday in June and finishes at lunchtime on the Friday. From Sunday, each day begins at 9.30 am and continues to 7.00 pm, with breaks for tea/coffee and lunch.

Accommodation, should you require it for the summer school, is not included in your tuition fee but it may be possible to book accommodation for that period subject to availability.

International students

Option 1 is not suitable for international students who do not already live in the UK before the course begins. It is not possible to apply for a Student visa on the basis of this course and due to the pattern of study, attendance it is not suitable for the Standard Visitor route, however you might like to consider Option 2.

Option 2:

The online study option repeats the course structure exactly as outlined above, but instead of face-to-face day schools in Oxford, nearly all of the work you do will be through online media and resources. Each of the first five terms is comprised of ten weekly units focusing on individual aspects of the writer’s craft. Term 6 has five units instead of ten, mirroring the face-to-face option above. Each weekly unit has:

  • experiments and exercises in reading, critiquing and practical writing activities as well as lively group discussions in focussed study forums wherein your tutor is an active participant;
  • group discussions in forums centred on each other’s work. This is because the value of group activity as a catalyst for the creative imagination is a central tenet of the course.

There is a three-week residential summer school at the end of the first year of study, which provides an unparalleled opportunity to concentrate on living and working your craft. This is an integral part of the course. Please note accomodation is not included in the course fee.

The summer school is a vibrant culmination to your first year, allowing dedicated time and space for your writing. Sessions for the whole group are balanced by individual sessions which allow you to focus on areas of your choice. There is time set aside for uninterrupted writing, and guidance will be given, as a group and individually, about how best to focus your efforts during the summer vacation so that you can get the most out of your second year. Nearly every day begins with a plenary lecture by a visiting speaker – most often these are professional writers in various media, but also other industry professionals such as agents, publishers and producers too. There are five two-hour face-to-face classes with your tutors every week. The programme also includes a range of optional activities, such as visits to theatre or similar events, tours of ‘literary/historical’ sites and so on.

Throughout the course, whichever study option you take, you will be producing your own work (see below for more details). For each assignment, there is usually a one-to-one tutorial with a specialist in this type of writing, making an unrivalled opportunity for focused, developmental discussion of your own work in progress. Remember that you will need to devote a considerable amount of time to your writing outside the timetabled sessions — you should plan for at least 12 hours each week.

The course in detail

Course content
Year 1 teaching

The first term provides an introduction to the three main genres: prose, poetry and drama. From the outset you will be able to engage in practical activity and wide-ranging group discussions of aims, techniques and issues.

All good writers must first be skilled readers. Developing your strengths as a critical, intelligent reader allows you to consider and articulate the ways in which various kinds of writing work. In the second term, you can refine and develop your analytical skills with three weeks of Reading for Writers, followed by seven weeks of close attention to the structures and approaches of prose fiction.

The third term concentrates on how to address the challenges of writing poetry and stage drama.

Year 2 teaching

Year 2 allows you to consolidate and broaden the advances in skill, confidence and analytical ability you will have made in Year 1.

Term 4 provides in-depth concentration on short and long fiction, while Term 5 focuses on advanced Reading for Writers (three weeks) and further high-level consideration of the craft of poetry. Term 6 gives students up-to-the-minute experience of how to write broadcast drama.

Tutorials

Each term you will have two tutorials of around 45 minutes each. These one-to-one sessions allow time for concentrated appraisal of your work in progress, giving you feedback on the strengths of your work as well as those areas which may need improvement. The tutorials focus on work you have produced in relation to the genres studied during that term. This means that as early as Term 1 you have considerable freedom of choice to engage with prose, poetry or drama (though you should expect to engage with more than one category in that term). For those students pursuing Option 1 (face-to-face) tutorials can be arranged in person or online; for those pursing Option 2 (online) all tutorials are online except for those at the summer school.

Space for specialisation

At the end of both years you will be able to work more extensively in your own area of interest, producing a portfolio of around 6,000 words in the case of prose and drama, or around 200 lines of poetry. Your second-year portfolio is allocated four term weeks for concentrated attention, guided by a preliminary tutorial discussion of the content you are proposing, and a review tutorial on completion of the project.

Assessment

You will be assessed on:

  • Two pieces of writing submitted each term. These are tied to that term’s seminar activities and are each expected to be about 2,000 words of prose, 15 pages of drama, or about 100 lines of poetry.
  • The end-of-year portfolio submission, which will be around three times this length.

If you have not recently been involved in assessment of this kind, do not regard it as a barrier. Tutors and other specialist staff will be happy to offer advice and guidance at any time during the course.

IT requirements

To study at this level you are expected to have some IT skills, access to a computer and the internet. Your course requires you to engage with the Virtual Learning Environment for course materials and uses the Department’s online assignment submission system. Students need to have regular access to a computer and the internet, and some level of experience and skill including the use of Microsoft Word or similar word-processing package, email and internet browser such as Firefox or Google Chrome.

Teaching staff

The following staff are expected to be the Tutors on the course this year (*note – the teaching staff CAN vary sometimes depending upon tutors’ availability):

John Ballam is the author of two collections of poems, six stage plays, four screenplays, two novels and numerous reviews, articles and academic works. His best-known title is his memoir The Road to Harmony (1999; newest edn. 2013). He has been a script consultant/screenwriter for several major film producers in Hollywood, London and Mumbai. His latest work is a novel entitled The Mary House, published in NYC in 2019.

Edward Clarke’s new collection of poems is called A Book of Psalms (Paraclete Press 2020). He presented Clarke’s Psalter, a documentary about writing these poems, broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in September 2018. His poems and translations, nominated for the Pushcart Prize, have appeared in numerous journals and his pamphlet, Eighteen Psalms, was published by Periplum Poetry in 2018. He is also the author of two books of criticism, The Later Affluence of W.B. Yeats and Wallace Stevens (Palgrave Macmillan 2012) and The Vagabond Spirit of Poetry (Iff Books 2014). His teaching experience began almost twenty years ago at Trinity College, Dublin. Now he teaches creative writing and English literature to undergraduates and mature students at various colleges and in the Department for Continuing Education, Oxford University. He is also poetry editor of the magazine Cassandra Voices.

Frank Egerton studied English at Keble College, Oxford, and from 1995 to 2008 reviewed fiction for publications that included The Times, TLS and The Financial Times. He is interested in both the close examination of fiction and how technologies such as ebooks and print-on-demand are changing the publishing industry and offering fresh opportunities to writers. He is a member of the Society of Authors and AWP, and is a former editor of the Oxford Writer. He was chair of Writers in Oxford from 2008 to 2010. His first novel The Lock was published in paperback in 2003, the ebook version having been an Independent e-Book Awards finalist in Santa Barbara in 2002. His second novel Invisible was published in 2010. Also in 2010, he founded the micropublishing imprint StreetBooks. In 2016 he was co-investigator on a digital project looking at narrative shapes and is now in the process of completing a memoir entitled Trust: A family story. He is a member of Common Room at Kellogg College. As well as teaching creative writing, he is a librarian and subject consultant with the Bodleian Libraries.

Beatrice Hitchman read English and French at Edinburgh University and then completed an MA in Comparative Literature. After a stint in France, she returned to the UK to work as a film editor, also writing and directing short films which have been screened at festivals worldwide. In 2009 she graduated from the Bath Spa MA in Creative Writing, winning the Greene & Heaton Prize for Best Novel. Her debut novel, Petite Mort, was published by Serpent’s Tail in 2013. It was longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize and the Authors’ Club First Novel Prize, and adapted on Radio 4 Woman’s Hour as a ten-part serial starring Honor Blackman. She has a special interest in the short form and its development in the current era of publishing: her short fiction has appeared in journals and magazines including Stylist and Chroma Literary Journal.

Victoria Condie has taught for the Oxford University Department for Continuing Education since 2000 on its award-bearing courses, public programmes and summer schools. Her involvement with the Undergraduate Diploma in Creative Writing began in 2012 when she taught the day school, Reading for Writers. As a medievalist by training, whose doctoral thesis looked at the way language is used in certain Old English prose sermons and verse, she is particularly aware of how writers craft language to their own persuasive ends. Currently she is a Bye-fellow of Fitzwilliam College, University of Cambridge where she teaches English Literature and its Contexts 1300-1550, a paper which involves close linguistic analysis. She also teaches Practical Criticism and Critical Practice for the Cambridge English Tripos. Her current areas of research similarly concentrate on the way writers use language, especially in prose. Her most recent paper, which she is currently working on as a contribution to a publication on recreating Old English after 1500, investigates the rhythms and cadences of Old English as it is used to achieve a specific effect. In this instance, she is exploring the deliberate contrast in prose effected by Kenneth Grahame in the non-narrative chapters of The Wind in the Willows

Jeremy Hughes has published two novels – Wingspan (2013) and Dovetail (2011). He was awarded first prize in the Poetry Wales competition and was short-listed for an Eric Gregory Award. He also publishes short fiction, life writing and reviews. He studied for the Master’s in Creative Writing at Oxford.

Helen Jukes has published fiction and nonfiction in a range of print and online journals, including Caught by the River, BBC Wildlife, Resurgence, The Junket, and LITRO. In 2015 she was awarded the Skaftfell Artists Residency in Iceland, and in 2016 and 2017 the Alde Valley Festival Writing Residency. As a writing tutor Helen has worked with writers at every stage of their career, offering one-to-one manuscript advice and feedback and also delivering group workshops for the IDLER Academy, the University of Oxford, Crisis and Freedom from Torture. Her first book, A Honeybee Heart Has Five Openings, was published in the UK and Australia in July 2018 and will be published across Europe and the US in autumn 2018 and spring 2019. www.helenjukes.com

Shaun McCarthy has had a dozen stage plays professionally produced. He has written book and lyrics for two musicals, and has written single dramas and series for BBC Radio 4. He teaches a range of writing for performance courses at the Department and also teaches at the University of the West of England, and guest lectures at various universities in Europe. He runs his own production company, Hooligan Theatre Productions, to develop new works for stage with co-producing companies. He is currently writing a version of Strindberg’s ‘Miss Julie’ reset to Oxford 1963, and developing a social drama/ghost story set on the Oxford canal.

Lucy Ayrton has an MA in Creative Writing from Warwick University, and is a novelist and performance poet. Her debut novel, One More Chance, the story of a young mother battling imprisonment and addiction, was published in 2018 with Dialogue Books and was a finalist in the Exeter Novel Award. Her next two novels will be published with Dialogue in 2021 and 2022. She wrote and performed two full-length spoken word shows at the Edinburgh Festival, which were respectively turned into a poetry pamphlet and a radio play. She also competed as a national finalist at the UK Poetry Slam. Lucy has taught creative writing at all levels up to undergraduate, and is currently a module leader at the London College of Creative Media.

Elisabeth McKetta has taught writing for Harvard Extension School for ten years and received their highest teaching award in 2018. She advises master’s theses; teaches courses on creative writing, business writing, the essay, and fairy tales; and has received numerous Dean’s Commendations for Distinguished Teaching Performance, based on student evaluations. She is a leader at Harvard in creating community in the online classroom, offering mentorship to her colleagues. She serves as a guest speaker and workshop leader for organizations and schools across the United States. Her PhD (Univ. Texas 2009) focused on the uses of myth and fairy tales to structure life writing, an idea that informs her work. She has published eight books including a biography, a writing guide, several books of poetry, a children’s book, and her debut novel is due in March 2021. Her writing has won awards, been adapted to film, and been featured in over fifty journals. Elisabeth lived for three years in a tiny house with her family, an adventure she discusses in her TEDx talk, “Edit your life like a poem.”

Nicholas McInerny has been a professional and award-winning dramatist for thirty years with over 80 credits in TV, Stage, Radio, and now Film. For eight years he was one of the main writers on The Bill (Freemantle) and has also worked on Holby and Casualty (BBC). He has written over 30 radio plays and 15 stage plays. In 2018, he had a production of Belle Fontaine as part of the VAULTS FESTIVAL at Waterloo East Theatre, Project Managed the 4th UK International Radio Drama Festival at Herne Bay, and saw the premiere of his Webseries Pilot – Yourdadsgay – , adapted from his highly successful BBCR4 Series, How to Have a Perfect Marriage. Nicholas has taught at over 20 Universities throughout the UK, moderated for UEA, and written the online course for the Department – Writing Drama. He is Chair of the Radio Committee of the Writers Guild of Great Britain.

Study Skills

The course team will provide both academic and pastoral support, including guidance on the development of effective study skills for students returning to study after a break. Additional support is available at a Departmental level by the Widening Access Assistant, who can be contacted on +44 (0)1865 280355 or via email at [email protected]

Before the start of the Michaelmas (autumn) term, we offer an Award-Bearing Course Preparation Study Day focusing on Academic Reading and Writing, which is free for students enrolled on our award-bearing courses. This can help students gain the confidence to read and follow academic assignment instructions and to respond to essay questions; and it discusses how to manage your time effectively, and how to locate and cite sources.

The Department also runs a programme of Study Skills workshops and weekly classes (available at a reduced rate to current students), designed to enable you to develop and improve the skills needed for effective study. If you have any questions about ‘Award-Bearing Course Preparation Study Day’ or any Study Skills course, please email [email protected] or telephone +44 (0)1865 270286.

Contact information

Course Director, Dr John Ballam +44 (0)1865 280885 [email protected]

For queries on applications and admissions: +44 (0)1865 270286 [email protected]

For general guidance and advice, credit transfer, special needs provision and sources of funding: +44 (0)1865 280355 [email protected]

For information about Study Skills courses: +44 (0)1865 280892 [email protected]

How to apply

Please click on the ‘Apply’ button which will automatically notify us that you want a link to the online application form. We will email you that link together with a code to waive the application fee, and guidance on completing and submitting your application.

You will need to upload the following documents as part of your application:

  • a sample of your work: approximately 2000 words of prose fiction or dramatic dialogue, or about half a dozen poems
  • a statement of between 300 and 400 words explaining why you wish to enrol on the course, and stating which pathway you are applying for.
  • proof of English language ability if a non-native English speaker. Further information on English language requirements can be found here. Please note that candidates are required to have the higher-level score.
  • contact details for one referee

If possible, your referee should be someone who can comment on your academic ability and background, but where this is not appropriate, please choose a referee who can vouch for your motivation, commitment and potential. A reference from a family member is not acceptable.

Admissions decisions will be based on an assessment of knowledge, relevant experience, academic ability, potential and suitability for a course of study. We welcome applicants without traditional qualifications, including those with relevant career or life skills.

Selection criteria

Even if a course has no specific academic entry requirements then: (a) assessment of an applicant’s academic ability and suitability for the course of study will still take place and (b) since applications for many courses often significantly exceed places available, each application will be judged against the gathered field of applicants for each course each year.

The University is committed to promoting diversity, equality, inclusion, and widening access, including during the admissions process. We fully endorse the Equality Policy and our admissions procedures are kept under regular review to ensure compliance with this policy.

Short-listed applicants will be invited for interview.

The final decision on admission to the course rests with the Department.

Award and credit transfer

Students who successfully complete this two-year course will be awarded the Oxford University Undergraduate Diploma in Creative Writing. Outstanding performance will qualify for a Distinction. You will be invited to receive your Diploma at the annual Awards Ceremony of the Department for Continuing Education, held at Oxford’s Sheldonian Theatre.

The course carries 120 CATS points at second-year undergraduate level (FHEQ Level 5) . These credit points are widely recognised as credit for transfer to other Higher Education institutions, including the Open University. Opportunities vary for the transfer of credit, so students who are considering taking this course for this reason are advised to discuss the possibilities with the Course Administrator on +44 (0)1865 270286.

Option 1:

The fee for Option 1 in 2022-23 is £3,050 (Home, Islands, and Republic of Ireland students) or £5,230 (Overseas students). An option to pay the fee in instalments may be available.

Option 2:

The fee for Option 2 in 2022-23 is £3,050 (Home, Islands, and Republic of Ireland students) or £5,230 (Overseas students). An option to pay the fee in instalments may be available.

Please be aware that fees will usually increase annually.

Information for applicants from the EU, EEA and Switzerland

On 11 May 2021 the UK Council for International Student Affairs published new regulations and guidance to be used in assessing the fee status of students commencing courses in August 2021 and later. We will be using this guidance to carry out fee status assessments for students commencing courses in 2021/22 and later, including students from the EU, EEA and Switzerland.

If you are an EU national and do not live in the UK then you are likely to be charged Overseas fees. Students with settled and pre-settled status in the UK and some other categories of students who work in the UK can qualify for Home fee status as long as they meet the residence criteria.

Students from outside the UK/Republic of Ireland

If you are from outside the UK/Republic of Ireland, you will be classed either as an ‘Overseas’ or ‘Islands’ student.

Information on financial support can be found on our website here.

English language requirements

Please read the English language requirements for undergraduate study on the University’s website. Applicants are required to have the higher level scores.

English language test waivers

To request a waiver, please answer the questions in the online application form accordingly.

Pathways

The Department for Continuing Education offers day and weekend courses, weekly classes, online short courses and summer schools in English literature, creative writing and film studies. In the Undergraduate programme, we offer the Foundation Certificate in English Literature, the Certificate of Higher Education, and the Diploma in Creative Writing. At Postgraduate level we offer an MSt in Creative Writing and MSt in Literature and Arts, along with the DPhil in Literature and Arts.

If you are planning on embarking on a new career as a result of your studies, or hope to progress in your current field, you can access help and advice through the University Careers Service.

Terms & conditions
for applicants and students

Information on
financial support

Daisy McNally

Daisy McNally had not done any sort of creative writing until taking a weekly class with us. She has now published her first novel with Orion.

Paul Scott

The Diploma in Creative Writing gave Paul the freedom to experiment with different genres, and the confidence to embark on a new path in life

Tahmina Maula

Tahmina worked as a senior manager in education before taking a career break to undertake the Undergraduate Diploma in Creative Writing.

MSt in Creative Writing

A two-year, part-time master’s offering a unique combination of high contact hours, genre specialization, and critical and creative breadth.

MSt in Creative Writing

The MSt in Creative Writing is a two-year, part-time master’s degree course offering a unique combination of high contact hours, genre specialisation, and critical and creative breadth.

The emphasis of the course is cross-cultural and cross-genre, pointing up the needs and challenges of the contemporary writer who produces their creative work in the context of a global writerly and critical community.

The MSt offers a clustered learning format of five residences, two guided retreats and one research placement over two years. The research placement, a distinguishing feature of the course, provides between one and two weeks’ in-house experience of writing in the real world.

The first year concentrates equally on prose fiction, poetry, dramatic writing and narrative non-fiction. There is a significant critical reading and analysis component, which is linked to the writerly considerations explored in each of the genres. In your second year you will specialise in one of the following:

  • the novel
  • short fiction
  • radio drama
  • TV drama
  • screenwriting
  • stage drama
  • poetry
  • narrative non-fiction.

The residences in particular offer an intensive workshop- and seminar-based forum for ideas exchange and for the opening up of creative and critical frameworks within which to develop writerly and analytical skills. There is a strong element of one-to-one tutorial teaching. Tutorials take place within residences and retreats, and relate to the on-going work produced for the course.

You will be assigned a supervisor who will work closely with you throughout the development of the year two final project and extended essay. All assessed work throughout the two years of the course is subject to one-to-one feedback and discussion with a tutor. This intensive, one-to-one input, combined with the highly interactive workshop and seminar sessions, is a distinguishing feature of the course.

Supervision

The allocation of graduate supervision for this course is the responsibility of the Department for Continuing Education and this role will usually be performed by the Course Director.

You will be allocated a supervisor to guide and advise you on your creative and critical work throughout the second year.

It is not always possible to accommodate the preferences of incoming graduate students to work with a particular member of staff. Under exceptional circumstances a supervisor may be found outside the Department for Continuing Education.

Assessment

The MSt is assessed by coursework. In the first year, four assignments (two creative, two critical), one creative writing portfolio and one critical essay are submitted. Work is set during each residence and handed in for assessment before the next meeting. Feedback on work submitted is given during tutorials within the residence or retreat. In the second year, submissions comprise one research placement report, one extended critical essay, and a final project – a substantial body of creative work in the genre of choice.

You will be set specific creative and critical work to be completed between residences and handed in to set deadlines. Creative submissions in the first year must be in more than one genre. In the second year, submitted work focuses around the genre of your choice.

Graduate destinations

Graduate destinations have included doctoral programmes in creative writing; teaching creative writing; publishing creative work in chosen field; careers in arts/media.

Changes to this course and your supervision

The University will seek to deliver this course in accordance with the description set out in this course page. However, there may be situations in which it is desirable or necessary for the University to make changes in course provision, either before or after registration. The safety of students, staff and visitors is paramount and major changes to delivery or services may have to be made in circumstances of a pandemic (including Covid-19), epidemic or local health emergency. In addition, in certain circumstances, for example due to visa difficulties or because the health needs of students cannot be met, it may be necessary to make adjustments to course requirements for international study.

Where possible your academic supervisor will not change for the duration of your course. However, it may be necessary to assign a new academic supervisor during the course of study or before registration for reasons which might include illness, sabbatical leave, parental leave or change in employment.

For further information please see our page on changes to courses and the provisions of the student contract regarding changes to courses.

Other courses you may wish to consider

If you’re thinking about applying for this course, you may also wish to consider the courses listed below. These courses may have been suggested due to their similarity with this course, or because they are offered by the same department or faculty.

All graduate courses in the humanities offered by this department

Entry requirements for entry in 2022-23

Proven and potential academic excellence

Degree-level qualifications

As a minimum, applicants should hold or be predicted to achieve the equivalent of the following UK qualifications:

  • a first-class or upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours in a related field.

For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA normally sought is 3.6 out of 4.0.

If your degree is not from the UK or another country specified above, visit our International Qualifications page for guidance on the qualifications and grades that would usually be considered to meet the University’s minimum entry requirements.

GRE General Test scores

No Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or GMAT scores are sought.

Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience
  • Assessors are looking for writers with a proven record of commitment to their craft, whose work demonstrates significant creative promise. You should be a keen reader, and bring an open-minded, questioning approach to both reading and writing. You will not necessarily have yet achieved publication, but you will have written regularly and read widely over a sustained period. You will be keen to dedicate time and energy and staying-power to harnessing your talent, enlarging your skills, and aiming your writerly production at consistently professional standards. It is likely you will have a first degree, or equivalent, although in some cases other evidence of suitability may be acceptable.
  • Applicants do not need to be previously published, but the MSt is unlikely to be suitable for those who are just starting out on their writerly and critical development.
English language proficiency

This course requires proficiency in English at the University’s higher level. If your first language is not English, you may need to provide evidence that you meet this requirement. The minimum scores required to meet the University’s higher level are detailed in the table below.

TOEFL iBT, including the ‘Home Edition’

(Institution code: 0490)

*Previously known as the Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English or Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE)
† Previously known as the Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English or Cambridge English: Proficiency (CPE)

Your test must have been taken no more than two years before the start date of your course. Our Application Guide provides further information about the English language test requirement.

Declaring extenuating circumstances

If your ability to meet the entry requirements has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic (eg you were awarded an unclassified/ungraded degree) or any other exceptional personal circumstance (eg other illness or bereavement), please refer to the guidance on extenuating circumstances in the Application Guide for information about how to declare this so that your application can be considered appropriately.

Supporting documents

You will be required to supply supporting documents with your application, including references and an official transcript. See ‘How to apply’ for instructions on the documents you will need and how these will be assessed.

Performance at interview

Interviews are normally held as part of the admissions process.

For those applying by the January deadline, interviews are generally held in February and March. For March applicants, interviews are generally held in March and April.

The decision to call an applicant for interview is based on the University Admission Board’s assessment of your portfolio, statement of purpose, academic and professional track record and references. Interviews will be conducted in person or by telephone. All applicants whose paper submissions indicate they are qualified for entry will generally be interviewed, either in person or by telephone/Skype. There are always two interviewers. Interviews usually last up to approximately 30 minutes and provide an opportunity for the candidate to discuss his/her application and to explore the course in more detail.

The interview is designed to ascertain, through a range of questions, the shape and emphasis of the candidate’s writing and reading, and general suitability for the demands of the MSt.

Supervision

Any offer of a place is dependent on the University’s ability to provide the appropriate supervision for your chosen area of work. Please refer to the ‘About’ section of this page for more information about the provision of supervision for this course.

How your application is assessed

Your application will be assessed purely on academic merit and potential, according to the published entry requirements for the course. The After you apply section of this website provides further information about the academic assessment of your application, including the potential outcomes. Please note that any offer of a place may be subject to academic conditions, such as achieving a specific final grade in your current degree course. These conditions may vary depending upon your individual academic circumstances.

Students are considered for shortlisting and selected for admission without regard to age, disability, gender reassignment, marital or civil partnership status, pregnancy and maternity, race (including colour, nationality and ethnic or national origins), religion or belief (including lack of belief), sex, sexual orientation, as well as other relevant circumstances including parental or caring responsibilities or social background. However, please note the following:

  • Socio-economic information may be taken into account in the selection of applicants and award of scholarships for courses that are part of the University’s pilot on selection procedures and for scholarships aimed at under-represented groups;
  • Country of ordinary residence may be taken into account in the awarding of certain scholarships; and
  • Protected characteristics may be taken into account during shortlisting for interview or the award of scholarships where the University has approved a positive action case under the Equality Act 2010.

Admissions panels and assessors

All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgement of at least two members of the academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and must also be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies or Admissions Committee (or equivalent within the department).

Admissions panels or committees will always include at least one member of academic staff who has undertaken appropriate training.

After an offer is made

If you receive an offer of a place at Oxford, your offer letter will give full details of your offer and any academic conditions, such as achieving a specific final grade in your current degree course. In addition to any academic conditions which are set, you will be required to meet the following requirements:

Financial Declaration

If you are offered a place, you will be required to complete a Financial Declaration in order to meet your financial condition of admission.

Disclosure of criminal convictions

In accordance with the University’s obligations towards students and staff, we will ask you to declare any relevant, unspent criminal convictions before you can take up a place at Oxford.

Resources

The department is committed to supporting you to pursue your academic goals.

The Rewley House Continuing Education Library, one of the Bodleian Libraries, is situated in Rewley House. The department aims to support the wide variety of subjects covered by departmental courses at many academic levels. The department also has a collection of around 73,000 books together with periodicals. PCs in the library give access to the internet and the full range of electronic resources subscribed to by the University of Oxford. Wifi is also available. The Jessop Reading Room adjoining the library is available for study. You will have access to the Central Bodleian and other Bodleian Libraries.

The Graduate School provides a stimulating and enriching learning and research environment for the department’s graduate students, fostering intellectual and social interaction between graduates of different disciplines and professions from the UK and around the globe. The Graduate School will help you make the most of the wealth of resources and opportunities available, paying particular regard to the support and guidance needed if you are following a part-time graduate programme. The department’s graduate community comprises over 600 members following taught programmes and more than 70 undertaking doctoral research.

The department provides various IT facilities, including the Student Computing Facility which provides individual PCs for your use. Many of the department’s courses are delivered through blended learning or have a website to support face-to-face study. In most cases, online support is delivered through a virtual learning environment.

Depending on the programme you are taking with the department, you may require accommodation at some point in your student career. Rewley House is ideally located in central Oxford; the city’s historic sites, colleges, museums, shops and restaurants are only a few minutes’ walk away. The department has 35 en-suite study bedrooms, all with high quality amenities, including internet access.

The Rewley House dining room has seating for up to 132 people. A full meal service is available daily. The department operates a Common Room with bar for students.

Funding

The University expects to be able to offer around 1,000 full or partial graduate scholarships across the collegiate University in 2022-23. You will be automatically considered for the majority of Oxford scholarships, if you fulfil the eligibility criteria and submit your graduate application by the relevant December or January deadline. Most scholarships are awarded on the basis of academic merit and/or potential.

For further details about searching for funding as a graduate student visit our dedicated Funding pages, which contain information about how to apply for Oxford scholarships requiring an additional application, details of external funding, loan schemes and other funding sources.

Please ensure that you visit individual college websites for details of any college-specific funding opportunities using the links provided on our college pages or below:

Select from the list:

Please note that not all the colleges listed above may accept students on this course. For details of those which do, please refer to the College preference section of this page.

Further information about funding opportunities for this course can be found on the department’s website.

Getting Started in Creative Writing (Online)

Using a specially-designed virtual learning environment (VLE), this online course provides students with directed readings and tutor-guided, text-based discussions and debate. There are no ‘live-time’ meetings so you can study whenever it suits you. View sample units on our course demonstration site.

Overview

This course gives avid readers the skills necessary to turn a love of the written word into a practical experience. It introduces the key characteristics of creative writing, and students are supported with stage-by-stage guidance as they assimilate and put into practice a range of critical and creative methods. In addition to tutor feedback on the course assignments, participants will be encouraged to discuss one another’s writing in the course forums, and will be given guidance on offering constructive and useful criticism.

Beginning with an introduction to writing fiction, this course leads students step-by-step through the essentials of the craft – including characterization, plotting, description, dialogue and editing – towards an enhanced understanding of how novels and stories are written. There are also individual sessions on special topics – such as constructing an effective opening sequence, using imagery creatively, and working with experimental or other distinctive genres – and the emphasis throughout is upon developing an individual voice and a confident style while working in a wholly supportive environment.

For information on how the courses work, and a link to our course demonstration site, please click here.

Programme details

Unit 1: Getting Started

  • Getting acquainted with one another and the course
  • Autobiographical input
  • Working with notes
  • Practising discussion and critique of fiction-writing
  • Developing an individual emphasis
  • pace and style

Unit 3: Descriptive Writing

  • Scene-making: Sharpening the senses
  • Fashioning a world

Unit 4: Point-of-view

  • Who tells the story? Owns the story?
  • Making choices about 1st, 2nd and 3rd person narrative

Unit 5: Character

  • Constructing individuals
  • Back-stories
  • Conflict

Unit 6: Dialogue

  • Writing the authentic, the important and the plausible simultaneously

Unit 7: Plot and Momentum

  • Patterns of Story
  • From story to plot
  • Subplots

Unit 8: Genre and Length

  • Choices that shape the stories we read
  • What we expect
  • How we may differ
  • What kind of a story will you tell?

Unit 10: Re-writing and Editing

  • Finishing, polishing, re-making, re-telling, expanding and cutting

We strongly recommend that you try to find a little time each week to engage in the online conversations (at times that are convenient to you) as the forums are an integral, and very rewarding, part of the course and the online learning experience.

Recommended reading

To participate in the course you will need to have regular access to the Internet. All of the primary texts (short stories) used as examples in the course are available online, and in each unit you will find a link to the appropriate websites.

Recommended, but not required:

  • Lodge, David, ed., The Art of Fiction (Penguin, 1992) ISBN: 0140174923

Certification

To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee for each course you enrol on. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online. If you do not register when you enrol, you have up until the course start date to register and pay the £10 fee.

Coursework is an integral part of all online courses and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework, but only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work at the required standard. If you are enrolled on the Certificate of Higher Education you need to indicate this on the enrolment form but there is no additional registration fee.

Assignments are not graded but are marked either pass or fail.

All students who successfully complete this course, whether registered for credit or not, are eligible for a Certificate of Completion. Completion consists of submitting the final course assignment. Certificates will be available, online, for those who qualify after the course finishes.

Description Costs
Course Fee £515.00
Take this course for CATS points £10.00

Tutors

Ms Elizabeth Garner

Elizabeth Garner is a writer of fiction and screenplays, and also works as a freelance editor for both the feature film and publishing industry. She has written two novels, published both in the UK and USA to critical acclaim.

Cherry Gilchrist

Cherry Gilchrist is a writer, lecturer and tutor. She is the author of a wide range of books including titles on Russian mythology, life story writing, feminine archetypes, alchemy and family history. Publishers include Piatkus, Weiser, and Penguin. Her blog Cherry’s Cache on diverse topics is regularly enjoyed by several hundred readers. As a writing tutor, she has also taught for the University of Exeter, Marlborough Summer School, Cheltenham Literature Festival, and many other venues including cruise ships. Her interests are history, nature and travel, and she lives in the Devon estuary town of Topsham. She is currently training to be a Exeter Red Coat city guide. Cherry gained her degree from New Hall, Cambridge, and holds a post-graduate diploma from the University of Bath Spa.

Dr Louis Greenberg

Louis Greenberg is a writer and fiction editor with a doctorate in modern English literature. Under his own name and co-writing as S.L. Grey, he has published nine novels including The Mall, The Apartment and Exposure, a mystery about an immersive theatre group. Louis has studied scriptwriting, theatre set design and film finance, and two of his books are in film development. An Advanced Professional member of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading, Louis has edited fiction for several major publishers.

Course aims

This course aims to provide students with insight into the major aspects affecting creative writing, and enable them to use these features confidently in their own writing.

Teaching methods

  • Introductory section, outlining key areas of work within each unit.
  • Description of required reading and recommended reading.
  • Presentation of materials taken from additional (eg. online) sources, relevant to each unit.
  • Online discussion forum.
  • Online personal study diary.
  • Area for short responses to literary extracts from key texts.
  • Tutor responses to forum and exercises.
  • Assessment and feedback.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course students will be expected to understand:

  • Key features (such as point-of-view, dialogue, etc) in a fictional work.
  • The practical use of such characteristics in their own writing.
  • How to use these aspects of technical expertise with increased skill and confidence.

By the end of this course students will be expected to have gained the following skills:

  • The ability to recognize and name key features in literature.
  • Knowledge of what effects these features produce and how to undertake their use.
  • Increased confidence in their own use of such features as enhancements to the development of an individual ‘voice’ in creative writing.

Assessment methods

You will be set two pieces of work for the course. The first of 500 words is due halfway through your course. This does not count towards your final outcome but preparing for it, and the feedback you are given, will help you prepare for your assessed piece of work of 1,500 words due at the end of the course. The assessed work is marked pass or fail.

English Language Requirements

We do not insist that applicants hold an English language certification, but warn that they may be at a disadvantage if their language skills are not of a comparable level to those qualifications listed on our website. If you are confident in your proficiency, please feel free to enrol. For more information regarding English language requirements please follow this link: https://www.conted.ox.ac.uk/about/english-language-requirements

Application

Please use the ‘Book’ or ‘Apply’ button on this page. Alternatively, please complete an application form.

Level and demands

FHEQ level 4, 10 weeks, approx 10 hours per week, therefore a total of about 100 study hours.

IT requirements

This course is delivered online; to participate you must to be familiar with using a computer for purposes such as sending email and searching the Internet. You will also need regular access to the Internet and a computer meeting our recommended minimum computer specification.